Pop icon Hayley Kiyoko reveals that the songwriting process for her latest album, Panorama, was pretty straightforward. When she came into the studio each day, she knew exactly what she wanted to say and how she wanted to say it.
However, that doesn't mean that inspiration can't strike when you least expect it — such as from a late-night matcha order, for example.
"It was like 9 p.m. and I don't really like to write at night. I had ordered a matcha because I was tired and I was shaking the matcha and found the sugar was on the bottom of the matcha. I was like, 'Ugh, why is it every time you get a drink, all the good stuff is on the bottom, like all the sugar is at the bottom?' And then we all looked at each other and we're like, 'Oh my gosh, it's a song!,'" Kiyoko says during a phone interview with Orlando Weekly. "We wrote the song in 40 minutes and that was it. So sometimes, you have miracles like that where the song just blows out of you — like it needs to be said."
Just like that, Kiyoko had found the name of her album opener, "Sugar at the Bottom." Each track off Panorama is a unique look into the creative depths of Kiyoko's mind, an exuberant force split between a variety of mediums. From jump-starting her acting career as a child to recording her own music to releasing her own gender-inclusive fragrance to writing a novel based on her hit song, "Girls Like Girls," Kiyoko is a creative powerhouse.
"The Panorama Tour" follows the release of Kiyoko's second album, Panorama. While the tour began overseas at the beginning of April, Thursday's Orlando show (April 27) officially marks the start of the North American leg. As she sat on a train in Zurich, Switzerland, Kiyoko discussed the anticipation of seeing her Florida fans again.
"I remember one of my shows in Orlando very vividly because it just was so loud. My fans in Florida are just amazing," Kiyoko says. "I'm so excited to kick off 'The Panorama Tour' with everyone in Orlando — it's the perfect way to set the tone right."
When scrolling through Twitter after each show, Kiyoko says she's delighted to find fans sending her love and thanks for an "amazing therapy session."
"It's been amazing. The shows have been incredible and extremely loud — like my ears have been ringing after every show," Kiyoko says.
Kiyoko began working on Panorama during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and although the circumstances were bleak, Kiyoko was able to find inspiration and peace within herself. She says that finally being able to take these songs out into the world and reconnect with her fans has been a rewarding experience.
"Writing and creating the Panorama world has been a wonderful way for me to reclaim my power within myself and find my confidence. We all navigated this pandemic feeling so isolated and alone. A lot of us lost a lot of different things about ourselves but also gained all these new, wonderful tools and things and have learned so much about ourselves now," Kiyoko says.
Kiyoko says that while she continues to discover new things about herself, she will continue to remain consistent in the way she challenges herself to be truthful and honest through her work.
"I think honesty and truth can be very scary. And so when you're writing music, you really have to challenge yourself to be like, 'OK, this is what you feel. But how do you actually feel? What's really going on down there?' I think as long as we continue to stay open and honest with ourselves, there will always be that red thread throughout my music," Kiyoko says.
Kiyoko has gained a fervent fanbase in the pop music scene for her openness surrounding her sexuality and ability to express her identity through music. Rolling Stone described Kiyoko's debut album, Expectations, as launching her to "the forefront of an unapologetically queer pop movement." Kiyoko has remained a strong advocate for LGBTQ+ rights, even being deemed "Lesbian Jesus" by some dedicated fans.
"I think it can be challenging for people to live their authentic truth and so it's super important to be able to share that if you're at that point in your journey. For me, seeing is believing. So if you see someone being able to thrive and to be happy or to find joy and hope who has a similar experience or has grown up similar to you, that inspires you to be like, 'Hey, maybe I can get through this and maybe I shouldn't give up and maybe I should keep going,'" Kiyoko says. "I think the more we can all live our authentic truth and love ourselves, the more other people will be able to love themselves as well."
Kiyoko recalls one of her personal favorite lyrics on the new album from title track, "Panorama." The phrase, "Wait, have you seen the view," represent her longing to find peace in the present.
"All of us have dreams and aspirations and I feel like a lot of the time we wait until we're finally there, or we pass the finish line, or we've made it, but it's so important to enjoy every step of the journey along the way," Kiyoko says. "Appreciating the view and the moments as you're continuing to try to strive for your dreams and self love."
She explains that interactions with fans remind her of the joys found in the current moment.
"I think it can be hard for us, or for myself, to not be in my head. And so to be able to be present is such a gift," Kiyoko says.
"Being on this tour has been absolutely incredible. Being onstage and being present with my fans and getting to share those experiences. ... I can't wait to see everyone in Orlando. It's going to be a great time."